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Comparitively Speaking, Walker Comes Up Short In His Comparisons

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on May 10, 2010

There has been much discussion about politicians using social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, as a tool to get their message out to a whole new group of people. Some politicians are doing very well at it and some are just really fumbling around, shooting themselves in the foot more often than not.

Scott Walker has managed to do both at the same time, especially on Twitter. His campaign team has a good system going when Walker, or more likely, one of his aides de camp, tweets something. The others retweet it, spreading it as far as they can. This gets the message out to as many people as they possibly can.

Often, a person might be following multiple people from the campaign, causing them to see the message over and over, hammering the point across.

Very effective stuff, really. That is as long as the original message is on target. But as we all know, Walker very often gets tripped up on his own spins, such as his countless flip-flops and reversals on the stimulus money.

In the last two days, there have been two more examples of this.

Yesterday, Walker (or one if his aides) pointed out an “interesting column*,” and added that Tom Barrett’s spokesman was wrong on whether Walker increased taxes.

In the referred to column, the issue Walker argues against is this:

But Barrett spokesperson Phil Walzak shot back, saying “In nearly every single one of the County Executive’s budgets, he has proposed a higher property tax levy than the year before. … When it comes to holding the line on taxes, Walker simply doesn’t walk the walk.”

When Walker first started this meme, it was that he never raised taxes. That was shot down in short order by his critics and Walker altered the meme to be that he never raised the tax levy from the year before.

And this is where Walker’s comparison falls short.

Walzak was comparing apples to apples, namely proposed budget to proposed budget. Walker, on the other hand, is comparing apples to oranges, in which the apple is his proposed budget and the orange is the actual budget.

Let me explain what I mean.

Every year, Walker introduces a budget based on the previous years budget. The County Board then takes the budget, and with the exception of this year, fixes it, usually with a 2-3% increase in the tax levy. The next year, Walker introduces his new proposed budget, including the tax increase. By including that tax increase, his proposal is higher than the previous year’s proposal.

By including that tax increase, Walker belies his own statement by showing that he found the previous year’s tax increase to be acceptable, otherwise he wouldn’t have included it in his proposal. Without fail, Walker has done this every year as County Executive.

Earlier today, Walker did his second misstep when he tweeted

“Interesting how Dane Co had a deficit & Milwaukee Co had a surplus. Both counties face similar issues.”

He included a link to this article from the Wisconsin State Journal.

The article reports that Dane County’s general fund was $2.8 million in the red. Since they had already had a few million in the fund, that means that Dane County actually blew through about $7 million more than they were planning.

On the surface, it looks like Walker has a valid point. But a quick reflection on events over the last 18 months shows otherwise.

While it is bad that Dane County ended up in the red as they did, let’s expand that comparison:

  • Walker’s deficit is actually nearly $1 billion when one adds up what is due to the pension fund, the park repairs and infrastructure repairs.
  • Walker’s current budget has a $17 million hole in it, which will almost double if and when the UWM Foundation, the private land developers that want to ruin the county grounds, can’t come up with the money to purchase the land.
  • Dane County hasn’t had the state take over any of its program’s; Walker did with the Income Maintenance Program
  • Dane County’s unemployment rate in January 2010 was 6.3%; Milwaukee County’s rate has been hovering near the 10% mark.
  • Dane County’s transportation system is doing well; Walker has already cut 20% of Milwaukee County’s mass transit and this year is facing a very perilous future where a third of what is left could be cut.

The list could go on and on, including the rash of problems at the Behavioral Health Division, Walker’s problems with the House of Correction before he passed it off onto Sheriff Clarke, the crumbling courthouse, dirty toilets, etc.

The question boils down to what is more important, having a surplus, or being able to meet the needs of the constituents. One can clearly see from his entire approach as County Executive that Walker does not consider the needs or desires of the people to be his top priority.

When Walker’s record as County Executive is compared to Tom Barrett’s record as Mayor of the City of Milwaukee, the contrasts are even clearer, and not in Walker’s favor.

The question we will have to answer this fall is also a comparison or sorts. Namely, do we want to pay for tax cuts to the rich, as we would with Walker, or do we want to pay for services we would actually receive. Either way, we will pay, the question is for what.

Which do you think would be the greater value?

*Why is it that whenever an article mentions any politician, they find it “interesting?”

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